Rockefeller Foundation, Prudential Financial Contribute to Newark Opportunity Zones

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Newark Opportunity Zones Military Park
Military Park, Newark, New Jersey. Photo by Darrell Simmons/Jersey Digs.

New York-based non-profit Rockefeller Foundation and Prudential Financial recently announced the city of Newark will be the beneficiary of a $5.5 million initiative to spur responsible private investment through the federal Opportunity Zone program. The foundation and Prudential Financial, who committed $920,000 to the City of Newark, said the program aims to attract investment to low-income communities in designated Opportunity Zone tracts by providing capital for human resources and technical assistance.

“Opportunity Zones are only successful if community wealth building is achieved and economic mobility occurs for the residents who live within the designated O.Z.s,” Otis Rolley, managing director of U.S. jobs and economic opportunity initiatives for the Rockefeller Foundation, told Jersey Digs. “We believe for this to happen, the community must be involved in the decision-making process as to where and how capital is deployed.”

Under the terms of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Opportunity Zones enable private investors to become eligible for tax incentives on capital gains — profit on the sale of investments — and income. State administrators designated 13 U.S. Census tracts in the City of Newark to be eligible for O.Z. investment.

Rolley said the Rockefeller Foundation’s funding commitment is the first investment the foundation has made in the city in over 20 years.

Resources from the grant will be deployed through Newark Alliance. The foundation and Prudential said the funding will support the establishment of a chief Opportunity Zone officer and two community specialists to facilitate economic development within the designated O.Z. tracts.

Rolley said the O.Z. officer will be elected by Newark Alliance and the City of Newark and will become active by the end of July.

“[This initiative] is a grant to the City of Newark toward capacity building of the community and the municipality to both attract resources and deploy them in a way that advances equity and inclusion, while also generating a profit,” Rolley said. “We hope that this work and the other place-based work we are doing around the country catalyzes at least $1 billion.”

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and Accelerator for America, a non-profit based in Purchase, New York, announced a $1 million commitment to help distressed communities through inclusive investment on May 21 at the Forbes Opportunity Zone Summit in Newark.

“The only way to make sure the ‘opportunity’ in Opportunity Zones benefits all Newark residents is to intentionally focus resources to ensure it happens,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a prepared statement. “I am so pleased that through the support of our longtime partner in progress, Prudential, Newark was able to be the first city in The Rockefeller Foundation initiative.”

Governor Phil Murphy recently announced five municipalities would receive a $100,000 grant to boost financial and technical planning of O.Z. investment.

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